A bill introduced by Rep. Renee Ellmers to help health care workers recognize the signs of human trafficking got quick approval in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Ellmers introduced the bill last on Jan. 16 along with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat. Called the Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act of 2015, it was passed on a suspension of the rules on Tuesday, meaning there was no recorded vote.
The legislation would require the Department of Health and Human Services to award 10 regional grants to medical schools to develop best practices to help doctors and nurses recognize and intervene on behalf of trafficking victims.
Ellmers said the bill was a bipartisan effort to “stand up for victims of human trafficking and get them on a path for recovery.”
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“Human trafficking is a travesty. It is a heinous crime, and it is today’s modern-day slavery,” the Republican lawmaker from Dunn said, speaking on the House floor.
“A health care may be the only outsider a worker a victim’s trafficker will allow her to see,” Wasserman Shultz said during the floor debate. She also is the chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Wasserman Schultz thanked Ellmers for her leadership on the bill. “It’s been a pleasure working with you and your team,” she said.
Ellmers said the bill had a good chance of passing the Senate and becoming law. There is a companion bill that was introduced in the Senate last week by freshman Sens. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, and Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat.
The legislation did not provide funds for the program, but Wasserman Schultz said lawmakers would pursue appropriations to support it.
The bill was one of 12 that the House passed on human trafficking.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk, said in a news release that the bills would provide help for victims of trafficking and more resources for law enforcement.
Her office said the FBI has labeled sex trafficking as the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, that more than 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking each year, and that child sex trafficking in the U.S. is a $9.8 billion industry.